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AUGUST 2011 



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ABOUI rill' COXIK: jiiowii |M.|i.-aii. Slorx on |>ag(' 2(). '-K.'ii Coii-cr 

Executive Director 

As we approach Labor Day and summers end, we should 
not lose sight of the need to be ever mindful of safety 
while boating. With more than eight million Virginians shar- 
ing our land and waterways, we can expect to experience more 
boat traffic and, with the speed capability of today's boats and 
personal watercraft, it will be increasingly more important to 
take all safety precautions possible and heed established boating 
laws and regulations. 

Here in the Old Dominion, we average about 1 20 boating 
accidents per year, with loss of life in 20 of those cases. Recent 
high-profile boating accidents have made us all more keenly 
aware of the potential dangers associated with boating when 
not conducted properly. Informed boaters strive to reduce their 
risk when operating a boat by avoiding alcohol, by not operat- 
ing too fast at night, by having a proper lookout, and by always 
wearing a life jacket. 

Just like seat belts, life jackets cannot help you if you don't 
wear them! With the introduction of sleeker and inflatable life 
jackets, there is really no good excuse for not wearing one. Just 
wear it; you'll be glad you did! 

Boating education, now mandatory, is making a big dif- 
ference. A person who has taken a National Association of State 
Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA)-approved course is 70 
percent less likely to be involved in a boating accident. These 
safety courses have also restilted in a decline in the number of 
accidents associated with the operation of personal watercraft, 
and thankfully, no fatalities occurred on such watercraft last 

With the storied Chesapeake Bay and the many wonder- 
ful rivers, streams, and lakes across our great commonwealth, 
recreational boaters have many wonderful boating destinations 
to choose from. Part of our mission here at the Department is 
to promote the safety of persons and property in connecdon 
with boating and we want every boater to be responsible, to be 
safe, and to have fun! If you would like more information on 
safe boating or boadng opportunities in Virginia, please visit 
our website at: 


lb manage Virginia's wildlife and inland fish to maintain optimum populations of all species to serve the needs of the Commonwenlth; To 
provide opportunity for all to enjoy wildlife, inland fish, boating and related outdoor recreation and to work diligendy to safeguard the rights 
of the people to hunt, fish and harvest game as provided for in the Constitution of Virginia; To promote safety for persons and property in 
connection with boating, hunting and fishing; To provide educational outreach programs and materials that foster an awareness of and appre- 
ciation for Virginia's fish and wildlife resources, their habitats, and hunting, fishing, and boating opportunities. 

Dedicated to the Conservation of Virginias Wildlife and Natural Resources 

VOLlliMt 72 


Bob McDonnell, Governor 


Subsidized [his publication 

Douglas W. Domenech 



Bob Duncan 

Executive Director 


Lisa Caruso, Church Road 
J. Brent Clarke, III, Great Falls 
Curtis D. Colgate, Virginia Beach 
James W. Hazel, Oakton 
Randy J. Kozuch, Alexandria 
Mary Louisa Pollard, Irvington 
F. Scott Reed, Jr., Manakin-Sabot 
Leon O. Turner, Fincasde 
Charles S. Yates, Cleveland 



Sally Mills, Editor 

Lee Walker, Ron Messina, Julia Dixon, 

Contributing Editors 
Emily Pels, Art Director 
Carol Kushlak, Production Manager 
Tom Guess, Staff Contributor 




Printing by Progress Printing, Lynchburg, VA. 

Virginia WiUlife (ISSN 0042 6792) is publislied monthly 
by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. 
Send all subscription orders and address changes to Virginia 
Wildlife, P. O. Box 830, Boone, Iowa 50036. Address all 
other communications concerning this publication to Vir- 
ginia Wildlife, P. O. Box 1 1 104, 4010 West Broad Street, 
Richmond, Virginia 23230-1104. Subscription rates are 
$12.95 for one year, $23.95 for two years; $4.00 per each 
back issue, subject to availability. Out-of-country rate is 
$24.95 for one year and must be paid in U.S. funds. No re- 
funds for amounts less than $5.00. To subscribe, call toll- 
free (800) 710-9369. POSTMASTER: Please .send all 
address changes to Virginia Wildlife, P.O. Box 830, Boone, 
Iowa 50036. Postage for periodicals paid at Richmond, Vir- 
ginia and additional entry offices. 

Copyright 201 1 by the Virginia Department of Game and I 
Inland Fisheries. All rights reserved. 

The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries shall afford '* 
to all persons an equal access to Department programs and j 
facilities without regard to race, color, religion, national ori-f 
gin, disability, sex, or age. If you believe that you have beenl 
discriminated against in any program, activity or facility,! 
please wriie to: Virginia Department of Game and Inlandl 
Fisheries, ATTN: Compliance Officer, (4010 West BroadI 
Stteet.) P O. Box 1 1 104, Richmond, Virginia 232.30-1 104.1 

This publication is intended for general informational pur-l only and every effort has been made to ensure its ac- 
curacy. The information contained herein does not serve as 
a legal representation offish and wildlife laws or regulations 
The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries do( 
not assume responsibility for any change in dates, regula 
tions, or information that may occut after publication 




Paper from 

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Local Foods 
Are a Way of Life 



.^;r: 'U ■ ^<f'xt^.-j> 

Those who live and 

recreate in rural areas 

can teach us a thing or 

two about local. 

by Curtis Badger 

rowing up on Virginia's Eastern 
Shore, I got to know and love 
foods that many people else- 
where in the state have never heard of. A plat- 
ter of toads, anyone? How about a fried spot? 
A dam fritter sandwich? 

The local foods movement has become 
very popular in recent years, but for those of 

us who live in rural areas and fish and hunt on 
a regular basis, eating local foods is nothing 
new. In fact, what we eat and how we prepare 
it reflect our history and our culture. On the 
Eastern Shore, harvesdng seafood has been a 
way of life for centuries. Traditionally, the 
commercially valuable fish — flounder, 
striped bass, sea trout, bluefish, channel bass 
— went to market with an invoice attached. 
The by-catch, the fish that swam under the 
marketing radar, were brought home for din- 
ner. Tliese might include swelling toads (aka 
blowfish), spot, croakers, black wills, pigfish, 
and sand mullet. Over the generations, these 
have become prized loail foods. While floun- 
der are very popular in seafood restaurants, I'd 
take a platter of fried spot over flounder any 
day of die week. 

For the early colonists, salting fish was a 
matter of survival, a means of preserving a bit 
of protein to get them through the winter 
months. Salting fish long ago ceased being a 
means of survival, but many coastal families 
still have an old stone crock, and in late fall 
they'll catch spot, croakers, or small sea trout, 
fillet them, and pack them in salt to have for 
breakfast on a cold winter morning. 

In our family, the traditional Christmas 
breakfast consists of salted fish, scrambled 
eggs, bacon, and biscuits. We go out in late 
October, while the bays and creeks still have a 
few spot, croiikers, and trout. I prepare the 
fish by scaling and filleting them and rinsing 
them in fresh water. Then I pack them in salt 
in the old crock. A layer of salt, a layer offish. 
And so on until I run out of filets. I cover the 

VIRGINIA WILDLIFE ♦ www.HuntFishVA.conn 

crock with a tea towel, place a dinner plate on 
top to hold it in place, and let the fish and the 
salt begin their chemical reaction, a marriage 
of earth and sea, holding in suspension the last 
of the summer as we await a new spring. 

For salting, fish must proceed quickly 
from the bay to the crock. Time is of the 
essence. Fish that have languished for a day or 
two in a seafood market refrigerator are use- 
less. The process depends upon the salt react- 
ing with the moisture in the tissues of the fish 
to make a brine, and once taken from the sea, 
fish dehydrate quickly. When salted when 
they are very fresh, the meat will remain firm 
and white throughout the winter. 

Eating salted fish is an occasional indul- 
gence, not a common practice, especially for 
those of us who keep a watch on our blood 
pressure. We think of salted fish as an accom- 
paniment rather than a main dish. We soak 
them in water overnight to remove most of the 
salt, and then we boil them for about ten min- 
utes until they are done. Sometimes, well 
flake the cooked fish, add it to mashed pota- 
toes, and make a tasty potato cake — sort of an 
Eastern Shore version of a latke. 

Those of us who go fishing with the in- 
tention of bringing the catch home for dinner 
tend to be unsophisticated fishermen. That's 
because fishing methods that lack sophistica- 
tion tend to be the most effective. If it s fish 
you want to eat, why try to attract them with 
something made of fur, feather, metal, or plas- 
tic? If you want to catch fish, give them what 
they really want, which usually is another fish 
of a more modest dimension. 

I once had a fleeting urge to be a sophisti- 
cated fisherman so I bought a saltwater fly rod. 
I had fun whipping the rod aroimd and mak- 
ing the line do all sorts of things, but I rarely 
caught fish. And so I snipped off the fly, tied 
on a hook, baited it with a piece of squid, and 
began having a fine old time with the croakers. 

A friend who lived in the suburbs of 
D.C., who was a for-real sophisticated fisher- 
man, one day asked me how I was doing with 
the fly rod. "Great, " I said, "catching all kinds 
of croakers." 

"What are you catching them on?" 

"Squid," I answered. 

"How do you tie it? " 

"What do you mean tie it? I cut off a slice 
and put it on the hook." 

A "mess of fish" implies a wide variety of species and might include croakers, spot, sand 
mullet, swelling toads, and others. Eating local foods is nothing new to those of us who 
hunt and fish. 

He gave me his best Felix Unger look, 
and the next time he visited he brought me a 
box of six beautiful imitation squid strips 
made from the downy feathers of a snow 
goose tummy. They look great on the wall. 

What I do is called bottom fishing, 
and I suspect that phrase carries implica- 
tions that go beyond the fact that I locate 
my bait at or near the bottom of the partic- 
ular creek I'm fishing. Bottom fisherman. 

Those of us who go fishing with the intention of bringing the 
catch home for dinner tend to be unsophisticated fishermen. 

The spot rarely weighs more than a pound, but it is a favorite among inshore anglers 
and is highly regarded among seafood lovers. 

AUGUST 2011 ♦ 

Bottom feeder. It doesn't look good on one's 

But it does look good on one's platter, 
and that's the entire point, isn't it? We're talk- 
ing about real food here, not sophistication, 
not athleucism, not guile and cunning and 
the ability to pluck the tummy of a snow 
goose, and turn that goose down into a deadly 
weapon that if presented with just the proper 
touch, the proper drift, will entice a croaker to 
inhale it, thus impaling itself, and after a brief 
but exciting skirmish end up amid cool eel- 
grass in the bottom of one's custom-made 
hand woven creel from Farlow's of London. 

Lordy. All I wanted was some fish for 

I like to bottom fish because I like to eat 
fish. When you get that little ratde and mg on 
your line, you never know what's going to end 


rs, ToadaBnd Spot 

ypeople who live along the coast have a pen- 
chant for fish and seafood unknown in other 
places. Spot (Leiostomus xanthurus), for example, 
may not be well known among the broader mar- 
ket, but they are very popular along the Chesa- 
peake Bay and its tributaries in late suixgS^when 
the corn and butterbeans are ripening, till toma- 
toes are heavy on the vine, and that glass of sweet 
tea glistens in the afternoon sun. 'WlKBIk 

Another small panfish called the pigfish (Or- 
thopristis chrysoptera) is a beautiful little fish with 
subtle coloring around the gill covers ranging 
from orange to blue. It snorts a bit when it comes 
out of the water; hence, the name. Few people 
beyond the Chesapeake know of pigfish, but a 
wonderful summer meal consists of a platter of 
lightly fried pigfish, cornbread, fresh butterbeans, 
and baked tomatoes. Pigfish have firm white flesh 
and a modestly fishy flavor, not quite as oily as 
spot or bluefish, not as bland as flounder. 

Purists will tell you that spot and pigfish 
should always be fried with the head and tail left 
on to prevent that flavorful oil from escaping dur- 
ing cooking. Purists of a certain age will tell you 
the head and tail should be left on, and the fish 

crisply , 

-„_„, .■■ ■. - --. , o, find on 

a store shelf 

Another wonderful fish that sees limited 
market share is the swelling toad (Sphoeroides \ 
aculates), also known as a puffer or blowfish. 
These fish delight kids because when removed 
from the water they inflate an air bladder and be- 
tome about four times normal size. Instead of 
having scales, the skin is rough and coarse, similar 
to sandpaper. Toads might not play well in some 
restaurants, but many coastal cooks relish that 
tenderloin of white meat that lies along the back- 1 
bone. Big's Restaurant on U.S. Rt. 13 near Painter ! 
in Accomack County usually features a toad plat- ( 
ter among its daily specials. 

The hardshell clam (Mercenaria mercenaha) i 
is indigenous to the ocean side of the Eastern i 
Shore and the salty waters of the lower Chesa- i 
peake Bay. Local folks have been eating clams in : i 
myriad ways for centuries. A personal favorite is : I 
the clam fritter, which is pretty much a pancake i 
'"^'•e with coarsely chopped clams. Here's how to i 

I. Make a batter consisting of about 12 i 

bed clams, one medium onion chopped, one i 

up joining you in die boat. It could be a 
croaker, which some call a hardhead. It could 
be a spot or pigfish or a flounder, or maybe a 
bluefish or a speckled trout. It could even be a 
swelling toad that will puff up like a buck- 
toothed Softball with a two-day beard. 

Another coastal locavore favorite is the 
hardshell clam (Mercenaria mercenaria) . 
Clams are found on tidal flats at low tide and 
are plucked from the substrate with a rake or 
pick. Small clams that are steamed open and 
dipped into melted butter have a wonderful 
salty-sweet flavor like no other seafood. Larg- 
er clams can be chopped and made into 
chowder, or they can be sauted with garlic and 
white wine and served over linguine. Clams 
can also be added to a batter to make fritters 
(see sidebar), or they can be mixed with pota- 
toes and carrots and put into a crust to make 

clam pie. The Native Americans had another 
use for clams. They fashioned the shells into 
beads and used the beads as money; hence, 
the Latin name mercenaria. 

When it comes to making the best use of 
local foods, the Native Americans set the bar 
very high. They harvested the clam, ate its 
meat, and then converted the empty 
shell to cash. Now that's setting a good 
example. ?f 

Curtis Badger, whose most recent book is A 
Natural History of Quiet 'Waters fUVA 
Press), has written widely about natural 
history and wildlife art. He lives on Virginias 
Eastern Shore. 

ew potatoes and crisped kale. 

cup flour, r/2 teaspoons baking powder, 
I Vi teaspoon baking soda. Heat about a Yz inch 
■cooking oil in a fry pan. When the oil is hot, 
)n a dollop of batter into it and let itj^until 

land crispy on the bottom, and 1 

ok It until done. Clam fritters cobtTed well 
delicious. The key is to add the baking pow- 
•to keep the batter light and to wait until the 

fficiently hot before adding the batte 



Lett, put clams in the freezer overnight an 
when they thaw they can be easily opened with 
an oyster knife. 

Above, clams can be located at low tide by find- 
ing small key-holes in the tidal flat left by the 
siphons the clam uses to ingest food. Such holes 
are called "sign." Photo ©Tom Badger 


Fish haunt me. They linger on the 
fringes of my memory, shpping in 
when someone mentions an old fish- 
ing partner, teasing me in the quiet hours, hir- 
ing me into dark places. The fish I think ot are 
neither ones I've caught nor ones I dream to 
catch. I hose that torture me are the ones that 
got away. 

My first tormentor moved into my head 
40 years ago on the Smith River. The memory 
of the cold tailrace water splashing against my 
waders chills me still. Tlie hair on the back of 
my neck mats down from the dampness in 
the fog. 

As the water rose with the power genera- 
tion, shad minnows from the lake above Boat- 
ed down, spasmodically twitching from 

injuries sustained in the generators. With the 
steady progression of the current, they be- 
came more plentiful and the rushing water 
gave the moment a sense of urgency. 

An old brown waited by the stump of a 
windfall for this window in the day. His vi- 
cious attack upon these minnows left no 
doubt of his carnivorous nature. He cared 
neither for stealth nor deceit as he crashed 
shad after shad in the rising water. The boils 
he created on the surface lingered after he 
struck, riding the current to disappear down- 

I remember shaldng out sufficient line 
for a cast, my young hands trembling as fly 
line rattled through the eyes of the rod. My 
first cast dropped the muddler four feet up- 
stream of him. My nervousness made twitch- 
ing the streamer automatic as I tried to 
imitate the dying shad. But the old brown let 
it pass. 

He turned slowly, staring with 
those cold black eyes, meeting my 
gaze, then drifted back across the 
rising current to his dark domain 
behind the stump. 

My second cast landed farther upstream 
still, and I twitched the streamer in short 
bursts like a child finding his way through a 
dark cemetery, dashing from tombstone to 
tombstone. Tlie muddler came all the way in, 
no doubt glancing back over its shoulder and 
whistling the entire way. 

By now the current had risen to my waist 
and time to fish was short. My third cast land- 
ed where the second had, but on this retrieve I 
decided to give the old carnivore his fair chase. 
With time slipping away, 1 made my fly hurry. 
I skipped the muddler quickly away, letting it 


leap from the surface as if it feared the water 

The brown responded, jaws chomping 
close behind, leaving a wake as he came. At 
any moment, I am convinced he could have 
closed on my fly. Perhaps he enjoyed the sus- 
pense. Maybe he heard the music from Psy- 
cho playing in the background. But as I ran 
out of line to retrieve, my fly paused at the 
end of my rod as did the brown. He turned 
slowly, staring with those cold black eyes, 
meeting my gaze, then drifted back across the 
rising current to his dark domain behind the 

I shook with an adrenaline rush to 
which I became addicted in that moment. 
Forty years later, he remains in my memory as 
vividly as I have described him. His square 
tail, orange spots, and gnarled lower jaw 
might as well be on a photograph before me, 
so clearly do I see him. 

He comes to mind whenever I see good 
brown trout water. I expect him to attack as if 
he followed me there, slashing out from a 
shadowed rock or from beneath a sodden log. 

Though I would no doubt flinch, just 
such an attack is what I seek. I've come to 
crave the adrenaline of anticipation and the 
strike. No physician needs to check the 
strength of my heart. Surviving these on- 
stream tests is physical enough for me. 

In all the years since, others have joined 
old brown to haunt me. On Philpott Lake, a 
largemouth once rose to a locust I'd flipped 
over a fallen tree; I wanted to see how bass be- 
haved during a locust hatch. The mental 
video I see begins with his motionless drift up- 
ward, the tilt of his head for a better look, the 
rolling of his eyes to show the whites beneath, 
the slow parting of his lips to suck in the fly. 
His mouth looked like it could swallow a soft- 
ball. His blood red gills flared. I can still see 

At the moment I Struck, the redfish 
realized the crab was lined with 
steel The torque of his tail met my 
untimely strike, leaving nothing 
but leader on my retrieve. 

the thick, mottled black stripe down his side, 
ending in a tail segment as thick as my wrist. 
Then, he swirled in a flash, completely avoid- 
ing the locust except for smacking it with his 
tail in a taunting wave good-bye. 

I sat in the front of the canoe letting the 
jitters subside. I cannot spot a largemouth in 
clear water today without thinking of him. 
He has become the bass I use to measure all 

These haunts were joined only recently 
by a redfish, tailing in a foot of water in grass 
thick enough to hold my leader in the air. 
Snails climbed the blades of grass in single file 
making it look bumpy from a distance. I 
tossed a crab pattern at the nose of the redfish, 
uncertainly. I couldn't tell where the fly lay or 
if the redfish saw it. Slowly the fish leveled be- 
neath the surface and the fly line began to 
slide through my fingers like the buoy rope in 
Jaws. At the moment I struck, the redfish real- 
ized the crab was lined with steel. The torque 
of his tail met my untimely strike, leaving 
nothing but leader on my retrieve. 

The fish may have been different, but the 
rush was the same. Perhaps adrenaline burns 
images into my brain. Maybe I have a fishing 
gene that records these episodes for later re- 
plays. Who can say? 

All I know is that exorcising these haunts 
will take the rest of my days as I track the 
monsters to the ends of the earth, looking for 
these fish and their descendents, knowing 
that for all those I catch I face the risk of creat- 
ing more memories to torture me. 

All fishermen should be so blessed, so 
haunted. ?f 

Jim Mize has collected the best of his outdoor 
humor in an award-winning book titled^ The 
Winter of Our Discount Tent. Copies are available 

for $18. 95 plus shipping and handling by calling 

AUGUST 2011 ♦ 11 

unraveling the Mystery 

The Disappearing 
Allegheny Woodrat 

story by Cnstina Santiestevon 
illustrations by Spike Knuth 

Be Wild! Live Wild! Grow Wild! 


Allegheny woodrats once ranged from 
Connecticut to northern Alabama, 
finding food and shelter among the 
ridges and highlands of the Appalachian 
Mountains. Over the last three decades, they 
have completely disappeared from New York 
and Connecticut, and have declined signifi- 
cantly elsewhere. Allegheny woodrats are 
considered a species of concern by the U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service, and are listed as 
threatened or endangered or a species of con- 
cern in nearly every state where they occur. 
No other rodent is listed as threatened or en- 
dangered by more states than the Allegheny 


Allegheny woodrats have little in common 
with the familiar Norway rat — also known as 
the brown rat, common rat, or wharf rat — 
which was likely introduced to the United 
States in the 1 500s with arrival of the first Eu- 
ropean ships. The Norway rat has since 
spread throughout urban and suburban 
habitats from Boston to San Francisco. 
Unlike the Norway rat, our native Al- 
legheny woodrat generally lives far sepa- 
rated from humans, has a fijlly furred 
tail, and maintains a vegetarian diet. 

Adult Allegheny woodrats rarely 
measure more than 1 2 inches from the 
tip of their nose to the end of their tail, 
which accounts for fully half of their 
length. They generally weigh between 
8.5 and 11. 2 ounces and are the second- 
largest native rat species in North America. 
As with many species of rat and mouse, Al- 
legheny woodrats have large, rounded ears, 
long whiskers, and bulging eyes, all of which 
contribute to acute senses of hearing, touch, 
and sight. The woodrat bears a brownish-gray 
coat on its body and tail, with white under- 
sides and feet. 

Here in Virginia, Allegheny woodrats 
are only found in the western, mountainous 
counties, where they seek shelter amidst the 
caves, rocky ledges, overhangs, and boulder 
fields of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Ap- 
palachian Mountains and Plateau. Woodrats 
are not diggers. Instead, they construct elabo- 
rate nests of twigs, mosses, bark, and leaves. 
Nests are generally lined with a bedding of 
grasses, shredded bark, and fur. Allegheny 

Many voles, shrews, mice, 
and rats feed on nuts and 
berries, and the woodrat 
shown here) is no exception. 
But this particular rodent is 
known by another, more 
unusual habit. Among the 
items it likes to collect are 
shiny pieces of glass and 
metal, and nail clippers (left) 
fit the bill. 

woodrats will use their nests year-round. 
Abandoned woodrat nests may be colonized 
by opportunists such as white-footed mice, 
snakes, toads, and spiders. 

Woodrats are nocturnal foragers, and 
venture as much as one kilometer from their 
nest site in search of a mate or in pursuit of 
their vegetarian diet. Native flora such as 

common persimmon, Virginia creeper, East- 
ern red cedar, and acorns are among the most 
important foods for Allegheny woodrats. The 
rats also will consume green vegetation, as- 
sorted berries, and mushrooms. Anecdotal 
evidence suggests that American chestnuts 
were once an important part of the Allegheny 
woodrat diet. 

AUGUST 2011 ♦ 13 

Adult Allegheny woodrats are generally 
solitary and maintain and defend territories 
that may be as large as a half-acre. The 
woodrats breed from spring to fall. Most lit- 
ters average 2.2 pups in Virginia and the aver- 
age female raises one litter, and rarely two, in a 
single year. The pups are born naked with eyes 
closed, and will nurse for about a month be- 
fore weaning. If they do not fall prey to their 
many predators — foxes, bobcats, weasels, 
owls, skunks, raccoons, hawks, aiid snakes- — 
Allegheny woodrats may live up to four years 
in the wild. Researchers know of one survival 
of 54 months. 


Scientists are unsure why Allegheny woodrats 
have declined so rapidly in the past few 
decades. The list of possibilities includes loss 
of oaks and acorns, chestnut blight, and a par- 
asite commonly found in raccoon feces. 
Whatever the cause may be, the conse- 
quences are already obvious: Allegheny 
woodrats are disappearing from places that 
were long known to be their home. 

Of the states within their historic range, 
Allegheny woodrats have already disappeared 
from New York and Connecticut, and arc 

considered endangered in New Jersey, Ohio, 
and Indiana. Throughout the rest of their 
range — Alabama, Maryland, North Caroli- 
na, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and 
West Virginia — the woodrats are listed as ei- 
ther threatened or a species of concern. Ken- 
tucky is the only state that has not designated 
their resident population of Allegheny 
woodrats as endangered, threatened, or a 
species of concern. 

Food may be a large part ol the problem. 
A decline in food, to be more specific. Like 
many forest-dwelling animals, Allegheny 
woodrats probably once relied on chestnuts as 


VIRGINIA WILDLIFE ♦ www.HuntFishVA.conn 

a substantia] part of their diet. In some areas, 
this large, nut-bearing tree comprised nearly 
half of the forest canopy. The arrival oi chest- 
nut blight — and the ultimate collapse of the 
American chestnut population — left many 
animals scrambling to find another food 
source. Some studies suggest that small ro- 
dents, such as white-footed mice and chip- 
mimks, responded the most negatively to the 
chestnut's demise. Why not also the Alleghe- 
ny woodrat, another small rodent? 

Since the loss of chestnuts, many nut- 
eating animals have shifted their diets toward 
oaks, which have largely occupied the ecolog- 
ical niche once held by the larger chestnuts. 
White-tailed deer, wild turkey, black bear, Al- 
legheny woodrats, and other rodents all con- 
sume the nut crop — or, mast — of oak trees. 
One recent study found a strong correlation 
between woodrat population numbers and 
the previous year's acorn crop. This suggests 
Allegheny woodrats rely heavily upon acorns 
as a food source, perhaps as an essential part of 
their stored winter diet. If so, this reliance may 
also help explain the decline ot Allegheny 

A decline in food for Allegheny 
woodrats could also possibly be attrib- 
uted to a substantial rise in the 
white-tailed deer and black bear 
populations, both of which 
may compete with the 
woodrats for food. Likewise, 
maples and other shade-toler- 
ant trees may out-compete 
oaks in some areas, especially 
where whitetails actively 
browse, contributing to a small- 
er crop of acorns every fall. Long- 
term fire suppression, which allows 
understory trees such as maples to flourish, 
may also be contributing to the decline in 

There is also the problem of raccoon 
feces. Allegheny woodrats cache dried rac- 
coon feces in their winter food stash — 
the dried feces often contain a high 
number of undigested seeds, 
which the woodrats will eat. Un- 
fortunately, some of these feces 
are also infected with a round- 
worm, Baylisascaris procyoiiis. 
Most B. procyo)iis-'m{ected rodents 

ultimately contract and succumb to a fatal 
neurological infection. This negative relation- 
ship between rodents and B. procyonis sug- 
gests that Allegheny woodrats might decline 
dramatically in areas where raccoons are com- 
monly infected with this particular round- 

In addition to these challenges, Alleghe- 
ny woodrats may also be declining as a result 
of increased human recreational use of forests, 
decreased forest cover due to development, or 
increased predation from natural or invasive 
predators — including the domestic house 
cat. As with many species, there are probably 
multiple underlying causes behind the de- 
cline of Allegheny woodrats. 

Population crashes and local extinctions are 
serious matters with any animal or plant 
species. But, in this case, many people might 
wonder: "Why? Why worry about a rat? " 
True, rats are probably not the best-loved 

species in the forest. But, the Allegheny 
woodrat is a far cry from the familiar rats of 
our cities and towns. As a native species that 
occupies a unique ecological niche, the Al- 
legheny woodrat provides food for its preda- 
tors, and spreads nutrients — in the form of 
seeds, nesting material, and feces — through 
its often nutrient-poor habitat of rocky ridges 
and caves. The Allegheny woodrat is an im- 
portant part of the Appalachian food web. 

And, of course, there's the simple fact 
that every species deserves the opportunity to 
thrive. <*f 

Cristina Santiestevan writes about wildlife and the 
environment from her home in Virginia's Blue Ridge 

AUGUST 2011 ♦ 15 



of the 

Cobia continue to entice 

anglers to try their hand 

at landing this feisty 


by Ken Perrotte 

From the tower above the console 
on his 23-foot Dusky, Capt. Jorj 
Head announces, "It's looking 
awful fishy in here, a lot ot bait in the water, a 
nice tide line." 

The weather was beautiful this early Au- 
gust morning with low humidity, mostly 
sunny skies, and the faintest of breezes. You 
couldn't have ordered a better day for sight- 
casting for cobia, the summertime kings of 
the Chesapeake. 

"Cobia, just ahead — about 50 yards," 
yells Head hom the tower. 

He chopped the motor and quickly cast 
a baited live eel to the cruising fish. With a 
powerfiil swirl of its tail, the cobia surged to- 
ward the bait. As the slack line begim tighten- 
ing. Head flipped the bale closed on the 
Shimano Static spinning reel, cranked the 
line taut, and struck with the hook. 

Wham! The powerfiil surge of a now se- 
riously agitated cobia stripped line horn the 
reel, first moving directly away from the boat 
and then turning in a mad, circular run to the 
stern. Fhe cobia moved under the boat, 
around the boat, and then circled deep, bend- 
ing the 7-foot medium-heavy action rod into 
a tight bow. In a thrashing, huge spray of 
water on the surface, the cobia batded all the 
way to the net. 

With a couple ol fish already on ice, this 
48 incher was destined to be quickly meas- 
ured and have an orange, plastic tag inserted 
just under its skin along the dorsal fin before 
being released. 


Sight-casting and 

Striped bass and flounder are longtime Chesa- 
peake Bay fishing staples but, come summer, 
cobia captivate a growing legion oi anglers. 

A fish that will quickly grow up to 6 feet 
long, can weigh more than 1 00 pounds, wal- 
lops live bait, and then gives fishermen a fight 
that leaves them exhausted and drenched in 
summer sweat commands respect. Two fa- 
vored approaches to cobia fishing are sight- 
casting for fish swimming near the surface or 
chumming to attract them to the bait. 

Head is an elementary school teacher by 
profession. Summers off allow him ample 
time for guiding and pursuing his fishing pas- 
sion. He specializes in finding cobia cruising 
near the water's surface. The fish are often 
found hugging channel marker buoys but, 
under optimal conditions, sharp-eyed anglers 
can spot them in open water. The tower that 
Head added to his boat affords him a better 

Cobia are rarely tentative when present- 
ed with a tasty meal. While they will some- 
times hit big bucktail jigs, live bait is tough to 
beat — with eels or fish such as croaker or spot 
in the 8- to 1 2-inch range always enticing. 

These fish usually attack the bait within 
seconds of it hitting the water. A proven tactic 
is to watch the line and wait for it to move. 
Reel in slack while pointing the rod tip toward 
the fish; then, firmly snap the rod tip back to 
set the hook. Expect a powerful run once that 
hook is set, with more runs when the fish 
nears the boat. 

"We lose more fish right at the boat than 
anywhere else," Head admits. 

Powerfial fish demand sturdy tackle and 
well-tied knots. Head spools his reels with 50- 
pound PowerPro braided line and finishes up 
with 80-pound monofilament leader. He has 
taken to using a Bimini Twist knot to attach 
the braided line to the leader, preferring it over 
an Albright. 

Left, Capt. Jorj Head scans the warm summer waters of the Chesapeake Bay, looking for 
cobia swimming near the surface. Above, Wes Blow opens a container of frozen, ground 
menhaden to add to the chum bucket. 

Wes Blow readies a live eel. Eels make a tempting bait for big cobia 

AUGUST 2011 ♦ 17 

Wes Blow hoists a hefty, healthy cobia. Some mistake cobia for sharks when they see the fish swimming near the water's surface. 

While Head uses size 7/0 Gamakatsu 
Octopus live bait hooks, Newport News resi- 
dent Wes Blow supersizes things, using the 
same hook in a 10/0 while spooling his reels 
with 80-pound braided Power Pro line and 
80-pound Ande leader. He likes the hooks so 
much he has their stock number memorized. 

Blow is rapidly earning recognition as a 
cobia master. While he'll sight-cast to cobia 
near buoys, his smaller 18-foot Sea Pro isn't 
designed for finding fish in open water. In- 
stead of hunting for the fish, Blow locates 
areas where cobia frec]uent and attracts them 
with chum, using his own blend of ground 
menhaden and menhaden oil. 

Blow, a salesman for an auto retailer, 
caught a phenomenal 1 05.5-pound cobia not 
far from Hampton in 2009. Ihc fish had 
completely spawned and had an empty stom- 
ach. Pre-spawn, that fish likely would've de- 
molished the existing record of 1 09 pounds 
caught in 2006 in a Hampton tournament. 

What makes Blow's cobia catching 
prowess so remarkable is that he often fishes 
alone. He once fell overboard while batding a 
fish, but was wearing a self-inflating life vest 
anil managed to grab a line near the stern and 
haul himself back aboard. 

Blow hits the water with a live well teem- 
ing with eels, two ice chests Rill of frozen 

chum, and a couple of gallons of Gatorade 
and water. If time permits, he'll try to catch a 
few small croakers or spot to add to the bait 

From there, it's a question of analyzing 
wind and current and picking one of several 
honey holes he has identified over the years. 
After anchoring, Blow sets one floating chum 
bucket high and sinks another to the bottom. 
The stout rods closest to the boat have hefty, 
8-ounce pyramid sinkers to get bait close to 
the source of the lower chum slick. Ihe other 
set-ups have slightly lighter sinkers, and the 
bait is cast 20-30 yards off the stern. Four 
lines are baited with eels while one gets a 


usual practice of clearing the other baited 
lines from the water. Predictably, Murphy in- 
tervened. Tlie fish surged, wrapping every 
other line as it circled the boat. The fish was 
lost in the morass, but Blow noticed his rod 
rigged with a Shimano 4500 Baitrunner spin- 
ning reel was slightly bent over, so he picked it 
up. A fish was on but the lines were still hope- 
lessly tangled. 

While Blow spools his reels with differ- 
ent color line to facilitate untangling, the only 
way to get this fish in was to cut the lines to re- 
move the mess. 

"I cut and wrapped it around my hand 
with the fish connected and held on while 
splicing the line back together," Blow ex- 

This dicey mission complete. Blow at- 
tempted to wind in line. At the pressure, the 
cobia made a powerful dash that nearly 
stripped the reel of every inch of line. Blow re- 
alized this fish was bigger than estimated. He 
also understood he was lucky he hadn't ap- 
plied pressure while 65-pound braided line 
was wrapped multiple times around his hand. 
Torn or lost fingers or worse might have been 
the outcome. 

Once the fish was back under control, 

Blow called friends to see il anyone was in the 

area who could help him get the fish netted or 

gaffed and in the boat. The cavalry arrived 

soon afi:er and the gigantic cobia was hauled 

over the gunwale. 

^ "1 can't imagine any fish more exciting to 

2 catch than a cobia. 1 hope I land one someday, 

'^ but 1 doubt 1 will, " Blow says. 


Fast Facts 

♦ Cobia are a pelagic fish, closely 
related to remoras, often seen 
hanging close to sharks. They are 
found in open ocean waters 
ranging fronn tropical to subtropi- 
cal and temperate, and range 
along the East Coast as far north 
as Massachusetts. 

♦ The world record cobia was 
caught in Shark Bay, Australia in 
1985. It weighed 135 pounds 9 

♦ Female cobia mature at 36 inch- 
es and 3 years; males mature at 
24 inches and 2 years. Females 
produce from 377,000 to 
1,980,500 eggs. 

♦ in Virginia, the cobia limit is one 
fish (greater than 37 inches) per 
angler per day. They make excel- 
lent table fare. 

Cobia arrive in the Chesapeake 
Bay when the water reaches 68 

Besides anchoring and chum- 
ming for cobia, sight-casting live 
bait to the fish can be successful, 
especially if the cobia are found 
near floating platforms, such as 

croaker. Live eels also wrap around lines, so 
Blow retrieves bait periodically to ensure 
things are swimming freely. Chumming can 
also attract sharks and rays, sometimes in 
quantities so thick it makes sense to relocate 
to focus again on the target species, cobia. 

Blow's monster cobia catch was an in- 
credible feat. He was working a smaller cobia 
toward the boat and figured the fish was 
quickly destined for the net. He neglected his 

Capt. Jorj Head prepares some thick 
cobia steaks for the ice cooler Carefully 
prepared, cobia are some of the finest 
tasting fish to eat. 

AUGUST 2011 ♦ 19 

A small, tagged cobia is readied for release in the Chesapeake Bay. 

Weaned juveniles, 40 days old. 

Conservation Key 

Cobia fishing's increasing popularity creates 
natural concern for the sustainability of the re- 

"We're seeing more and more boats out 
here looking for cobia, " Head notes, gesturing 
toward several other groups of anglers work- 
ing the waters near the Chesapeake's Balti- 
more Channel. The captain hoped aloud that 
all anglers were adhering to the one fish over 
37 inches long per person limit and expressed 
a view that more law enforcement on the 
water during the cobia season could deter 
those predisposed to violating the law. 

Mike Oesterling, a retired scientist with 
the Virginia Institute of Marine Science 
(VIMS) at Gloucester Point, spent many 
years researching cobia, trying to ascertain if 
stocked fish could augment natural popula- 
tions should conditions ever demand it. 

"We do not believe stocks of cobia are 
currently in trouble," Oesterling says. The 
good news is that if trouble does come, stock 
enhancements appear doable. 

In 2000, the first successful spawning 
and culture of cobia beyond the larval stage 
within the U.S. was accomplished by the 
VIMS scientists. Hundreds of cobia were 
raised and then tagged and released in 2003, 
2005, 2008, and 2009. Ihe fish were all be- 
tween 8 and 27 inches when released; too 
small lor anglers to legdly keep if caught. 

Several questions loomed. Will cobia 
raised in a confined setting survive and grow 
when released? Will they behave like wild 

cobia? Will they migrate and return to where 
they were released? 

Happily, the uniform answer is, "Yes!" 

Nearly 20 percent of the tagged fish were 
caught again, some more than once. Tagged 
fish were caught at the Hampton Roads 
Bridge-Tunnel, in the Mobjack Bay system, 
along the eastern side of Chesapeake Bay near 
the popular fishing site known as "The Cell, " 
and elsewhere. 

Researchers collected a treasure trove of 
data with "credible anglers" reporting that 
tagged cobia associated with wild fish, fed vo- 
raciously and opportunistically, fought like 
wildcats, and made the characteristic migra- 
tion south in winter. 

Oesterling also sees increased fishing 
popularity, noting, "North Carolina's fishing 
has exploded in the spring when cobia are mi- 
grating through." 

Cobia tournaments attract huge follow- 
ings. Wliile tournaments are good for the 
economy and excitement related to a fishery, 
Oesterling warns that those big fish brought 
to the weigh-ins are almost always females. 

"Fecundity also increases as that female 
fish gets bigger. Rarely do male cobia get over 
50 pounds," he reports. "The majority of the 
cobia have spawned by the end of June, but 
some spawn all the way through August," 
adds the scientist. 

Oesterling thinks cobia release most of 
their eggs near the mouth of the bay where 
salinity is higher. Egg release can occur over a 
series of days. 

Both Blow and Capt. Head participate in 
the ambitious game fish tagging program co- 
ordinated by the Marine Advisory Program at 
VIMS and the Saltwater Fishing Tournament 
office at the state's Marine Resources Commis- 
sion. The program lets conservation-minded 
anglers assist in collecting scientific informa- 
tion about the movements and biology offish 
by tagging targeted species. Anglers catching 
an orange-tagged fish should report it at 

We tagged and released several fish dur- 
ing our 20 1 cobia forays. 

Oesterling adds that his research study 
has some fish still out there with tags. "I'd sure 
like to get a few more returns to enter into the 
database," he says. Anyone catching one of 
these earlier, yellow-tagged fish can call pro- 
gram coordinator Susanna Musick at VIMS, 
at (804) 684-7166. ?f 

Ken Perrotte is a King George County resident and the 
outdoors columnist for Fredericksburg's Free Lance- 
Star newspaper 


Capt. Jorj Head: (757) 262-9004 

Virginia Game Fish Tagging Program: 
www. vims. cdu/vgt tp 

Virginia Institute of Marine Science, 
Tagging Program: 


VIRGINIA WILDLIFE ♦ www.HuntFlshVA.conn 

story by William H.Funk ♦ illustrations by Spike Knuth 

In a world older and more complete than 
ours they move more finished and complete, 
gifted with extensions of senses we have 
lost or never attained, living by voices we 
shall never hear 

-Henry Beston, ^/^ 

The Outermost House ( 1 928) .>fevi 


* v>.* 


Tiger shark 

Sharks are central 
to the health of 
our oceanic 
ecosystems, and 
their loss is 
immense changes 
around the globe. 

unger. You have rarely 
known a moment free 
from its terrible grip, 
lashing i/oa ever on- 
ward in search of suste- 
nance. Since your live birth almost 20 years ago at 
the great nursery grounds hi the southern Chesa- 
peake Bay, you have hunted the Atlantic coast of 
North America fivm Nrw England to Mexico, feed- 
hig on benthic fishes, smaller sharks and dogfish, 
rays, and crustaceans. You are nearly 6 feet long, 
weigh 110 pounds, have the darkened anterior and 
lighter belly of most sea animals, and are possessed 
of the sinezoy strength, hydrodynamic fiwne, and 
unappeasable appetite of your kin. 

This evening in late summer you are patiently 
cruising the seafloor, snapping up what blue crabs 
you can find as you hunt the sloughs between sand- 
bars. Your elliptical eyes are able to see easily in the 
turbid waters near shore due to the crystal mirrors, 
called tapetum lucidum, behind your retinas which 
amplify light passing through the lenses by bounc- 
ing it back again to the photoreceptors. Your great 
dorsal fin occasionally breaks the surface in this 
slwllow area, but you concentrate on the sandy bot- 
tom as you search for your preferred prey. You sur- 
prise an Atlantic guitarfish as it is rooting for clams, 
but it kicks up a spray of sandy muck as it flees and 
your bite goes wide. Calmly you resume the hunt, 

tirelessly undulating thepowerful muscles of your 
tail and caudal fins as you move closer to the sound 

The hunting in the great bay is not what it 
was and most prey species are getting harder to lo- 
cate. You breatJie in the familiar stench of the 
chemicals that poison your world: polycyclic aro- 
matic hydrocarbons, the result of burning fossil 
fuels washed off coastal parkhig lots and streets; 
organophosphate and organochlorine pesticides 
from upriver farms, some as far away as the 
Shenandoah Valley where your ancestors swam in 
a sea that evaporated eons ago. Having consumed 
arsenic and mercury hi the fish and shellfish that 
frequent your habitat, your liver is bloated with 20 
years of toxic metal bioaccumulation. Your very 
success as a hunter is slowly killing you. 

An array of electrical sensors — the ampullae 
of Lorenzini—are clustered about your flattened 
snout, tiny mucous-filled pits that can receive the 
vague bioelectrical impulses emitted by all living 
things, allowing you to successfully hunt on 
cloudy nights by zeroing in on bioelectrical signa- 
tures. Suddenly you register a neiv electrical field 
and move into shalloxver water to investigate. A 
school ofcownose rays, a species whose numbers in 
the Chesapeake Bay have exploded in your lifetime, 
is slozvly flying through the turbid water along the 
shore. With a stiff flick of your tail you suddenly 
change course and accelerate into their midst. 
They flush in all directions, but their speed is no 
match for yours and soon you are chomping 
through leather]/ loings and bolthig down great 
gobs of meat. You, sandbar shark, snap up the last 
ragged scraps and head for deeper water, ingilant, 
relentless. Hungiy. 

Sandbar shark 

Smooth dogfish shark 

Fishes are the world's most widespread 
branch of vertebrate animals, with 
over 25,000 species extant today. Elasmo- 
branch fishes, those with skeletal systems 
composed chiefly of flexible cartilage rather 
than bone, include sharks, rays, and skates, 
and number around 800 species world- 
wide. The shark lineage (Order SeLtchii, 
Family Pleurotremata) dates back 400 mil- 
lion years, to the Paleozoic ("old life") Era 
when the first jawed fishes were evolving, 
prior to dinosaurs, trees, and even insects. 
So successful was the selachian design that 
was forced to change little as the slow eons 
passed: its incredible senses, devastating 
power, and generalist appetite combining 
to form the perfect marine predator. 

Selachian anatomy is geared toward 
the single purpose of oceanic hunting. The 
cartilaginous skeleton allows for tremen- 
dous flexibility while reducing body mass. 
Even the heavy jaws, vertebrae, and some 
areas of the skull lack true bone but are sim- 
ply cartilage that has been strengthened by 
calcification. Shaped like jet fighters or tor- 
pedoes, the shark's tapered form maximizes 
the flow of water as it swims, while its 
prominent fins provide superb stability and 
stamina. Unique sub-dermal connective 

tissues move the entire body's strength to- 
ward the tail which, with a lew stiffs lateral 
movements, can propel the shark in bursts of 
amazing speed — up to 22 miles per hour for 
the powerful mako. 

Sharkskin is layered with denticles, tiny 
tooth-like scales that reduce drag while pro- 
viding the animals with a kind of spiky 
armor. The formidable jaws are specifically 
designed for seizing and slicing into prey. 
The upper jaw is loosely attached to the skull 
by ligaments which allow it to detach, pro- 
trude, and gape wide to engulf smaller fishes 
as well as to grasp and tear flesh from the 
bodies of larger animals. 

The teeth vary in size and shape accord- 
ing to the prey base of the species, with fish 
eaters having more pointed, backward-fac- 
ing teeth and mammal hunters or generalists 
having the familiar triangular shape. Both 
types are regularly replaced by the rows of 
growing teeth set farther back in the jaws. 

Sharks are some of the very few animals 
left on Earth that retain the capacity to kill 
and consume human beings, but the threat 
they present us — despite the tragic reality of 
the occasional attack — is so rare as to be sta- 
tistically insignificant: an individual is three 
times more likely to be hit by lightning than 

Virginians must look no further than their 
own backyard for current research efforts 
and long-term data about shark populations 
and trends. The internationally-recognized 
shark survey established by the Virginia Insti- 
tute of Marine Science (VIMS) in 1973 by Dr. 
Jack Musick stands as the longest-running 
fishery-independent study of shark popula- 
tions in the world. The program has brought 
global attention to significant declines in 
shark populations due to overfishing, and led 
to the first U.S. management plan for sharks 
in 1993. 

In addition to increasing our under- 
standing about the demographics of sharks 
worldwide, scientists and graduate students 
at VIMS continue to inform our understand- 
ing of habitat use, growth rate, and reproduc- 
tion. Their work has identified Chesapeake 
Bay and Virginia's seaside lagoons as the prin- 
cipal nursery area for sandbar sharks in the 
entire western North Atlantic. 

Food-web dynamics are of critical con- 
cern, because in the world's oceans sharks 
are an apex species and key to the proper 
functioning of the marine ecosystem. Ac- 
cording to Musick, "Sharks are at the top of 
the food web, and when you remove the 
apex predators, it throws everything out of 
whack. Their prey items become more abun- 
dant, and tend to over-eat things below 

Current program director Tracey Sutton 
adds, "To maintain a healthy ecosystem you 
have to maintain a certain level of upper- 
level predators." 

For information about the shark survey 
conducted by VIMS, go to: 

SOURCE: Virginia Institute 
of Marine Science Website 

AUGUST 201 1 ♦ 23 

Shaped like jet fighters or 
torpedoes, the shark's tapered 
form maximizes thefloxv of 
water as it swims, while its 
prominent fins pvozude superb 
stability and stamina. 



Dusky shark 


• Off the Virginia coast, scalloped hammerhead and tiger sharks may have 
declined by more than 97 percent from sustainable populations; bull, 
dusky, and smooth hammerhead sharks by more than 99 percent. The valu- 
able ecological role played by these sharks as large predators has effectively 
been extinguished. 

• The legal limit for consumption of methyl-mercury, set by the U. S. Environ- 
mental Protection Agency, is 0.1 microgram per kilogram of body weight. 
Studies have shown shark meat contains as much as 1,400 micrograms of 
methyl-mercury in one kilogram. 

• It is estimated that cownose rays in the Chesapeake Bay consume 840,000 
metric tons of shellfish during their roughly 100-day occupancy. The 2008 
Virginia oyster harvest was just under 160 metric tons. However, attempts 
to address shellfish loss through the marketing of these rays as table fare is 
ill-conceived: According to the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, these 
rays are slow-maturing fish, with females not reproducing until they are 7 or 
8 years old and birthing just one live pup per year. It would be far more logi- 
cal to protect the natal grounds of the sharks that are the rays' chief preda- 
tors and restore the ecological imbalance caused by overfishing. 

to be bitten by a shark. There were an average 
of 32 shark attacks per year in U.S. waters be- 
tween 1990 and 2004. Of the 490 attacks 
during this 1 5-year span, 1 1 were fatal. Ac- 
cording to the International Shark Attack 
File (ISAF) one's odds of being bitten by a 
shark are 1 in 11. 5 million; your likelihood of 
being killed are in 264. 1 million, nearly im- 
possible. You'd have much better odds of 
winning the lottery than of being killed by 
sharks, and even the rise of shark attacks over 
the past several years can be demonstrably 
traced to the concurrent increase in human 
populations and interest in marine activities. 
Last year the ISAF investigated 11 5 al- 
leged incidents of shark-human interaction 
occurring worldwide. Upon review, 79 of 
these incidents represented confirmed cases 
of unprovoked shark attacks on humans, 
"unprovoked attacks" being defined as inci- 
dents where an attack on a live human by a 
shark occurs in its natural habitat without 
human provocation. That's 79 substantiated 
shark attacks, hardly a percentage of the gen- 


eral population sufficient to elicit much angst. 
These calming scientific pronouncements do 
little to quell the terror evoked by the specta- 
cle of death in the sea foam, yet when viewed 
dispassionately, as all credible science-based 
policymaking must be accomplished, the 
worlds selachians are in far greater danger 
than are beachgoers. 

According to William & Mary's Virginia 
Institute of Marine Science, the shark species 
most typically found off Virginia's coasts in- 
clude sandbar sharks, smooth dogfish, At- 
lantic sharpnose sharks, spinner sharks, and 
to a lesser degree, scalloped and smooth ham- 
merheads, tiger, sand tiger, blacktip, bull, 
and dusky sharks. Each of these creatures 
has followed its own path through the 
unpitying fields ol time and winnowed 
out their competitors through the 
supreme balance of evolutionary give and 
take. Yet their numbers are falling every day as 
millions are taken to supply an inane "delica- 
cy " while their breeding grounds are contami- 
nated and destroyed. 

The greatest threat to sharks today is 
overfishing throughout the world's oceans; a 
threat intensified by countries — including a 
wealthy Asian market — that sweep the seas 
clean to feed their lust for shark-fin soup and 
"traditional medicines. " Combine this with 
pollution, coastal development, diseases, and 
an implacable fear and hatred of sharks, and 
it's easy to see why these marvelous animals 
are being exterminated. As 1 write this, a shark 
conservation plan proposed by the United 
Nations and backed by the U.S. was defeated 
by a cabal of industrial fishing interests, in- 
cluding China, Japan, Russia, and many 
Third World countries, opening the way for 

Sand tiger shark 

continued decimation of shark populations 
and the inevitable extinction of endangered 
representatives of these slow-breeding crea- 
tures. Cynical pleas for the economies of poor 
coastal countries, along with the myopic de- 
nial of scientific findings buttressed by an in- 
stinctive lack of sympathy for sharks, have 
combined to crush even the most basic of 
protective strategies, thereby consigning mil- 
lions more sharks to an agonizing death. 

Looking out over the seemingly bound- 
less sea, people have for thousands of years 
been drawn toward thoughts of the eternal 
and infinite, even though our visual range is 
limited to about 12 miles due to the curvature 
of the Earth. What has become crystal clear is 
that the oceans are hardly unlimited, that 
through overfishing, climate change, and the 
acidification and carbonization of seawater 

resulting from the burning of fossil fuels the 
state of the marine world is dire indeed, from 
dying coral reefs and "dead zones" to vanish- 
ing phytoplankton and the annihilation of 
entire genera of large animals. 

The oceans are finite, fading, and rapidly 
being emptied ol their most magnificent 
denizens. We needn't declare open war on 
sharks to ensure their demise and the cata- 
strophic repercussions it would have on the 
world's oceans; we can merely sit back, do 
nothing, and let greed and inertia do the work 
for us. Sharks are central to the health of our 
oceanic ecosystems, and their loss is triggering 
immense changes around the globe. Only by 
conquering our superstitions and avarice can 
these great animals continue a journey that 
has been hundreds of millions of years in the 
making. ?f 

William H. Funk is a nature writer and aspiring 
doamjentary filmmaker living in the Shenandoah 
Valley. He may be contacted at 
williamfunk3@verizan. net. 

Atlantic sharpnose shark 

AUGUST 2011 ♦ 25 

iding over Atlantic whitecaps 
off Assateague Beach are sil- 
houettes of a quirky looking 
avian trio. Suddenly, a fourth plunges into a 
trough, emerging with fish slithering down its 
enormous throat pouch. 

Life was not always easy for the Eastern 
brown pelican (Pelicanus occidentalis caroli- 
nemis). Once, this species was killed on the 
mistaken belief that it consumed commercial 
fish headed for market when, in fact, it prefers 
menhaden and other fish not destined for the 
dinner table. 

Appalled that pelicans were being killed 
for their feathers, in 1903 President Teddy 
Roosevelt set aside Pelican Island in Florida as 
a refuge for pelicans, egrets, and terns. The 
Migratory Treaty Act of 1 9 1 8 fi.irther protects 
brown and American white pelicans. 

Before it was federally banned in 
1972, highly toxic DDT nearly eradicat- 
ed the brown pelican, causing eggshells to 
become thin and thwarting reproduction. 
After a population rebound, in 1985 the 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service dropped 
the birds endangered status in Vir- 
ginia and North Carolina. 

By the late 1 980s, diis species began 
inhabiting Virginia in significant num- 
ers. In 1987, Fisherman Island National 




Wildlife Refuge became the first enduring 
nesting colony in the state. Unfortunately, 
marauding raccoons and predatory gulls stole 
and consumed e^s and young birds at Fish- 
erman that may have eventually driven peli- 
cans to new nest sites in 2009. 

The government responded. "The 
refuge's management efforts have reduced the 
raccoon population to manageable levels," 
says Ruth Boettcher, a DGIF biologist based 
on the Eastern Shore. "Someday, pelicans 
may return to Fisherman Island." 

"The population is maintaining an in- 
creasing trend in the state," Boettcher adds. 
"Between 1993 and 2008, the Virginia popu- 
lation increased from an estimated 368 to 
1 ,924 breeding pairs." 

Brown pelicans nest in secluded colonies 
on vegetated dunes along the Eastern Shores 
bayside and seaside from April through about 

mid-August. A typical clutch is three eggs, in- 
cubated by both parents. Fledged chicks will 
often form creches at the colony site and con- 
tinue to be fed by adults into mid- or late fall. 
A grayish-brown body and blackish 
belly signifies a breeding adult. Its white head 
and neck are often washed in yellow. The 
foreneck has a yellow patch at the base, and 
the hindneck is dark chestnut. First-year birds 
are browner and acquire adult plumage dur- 
ing the third year. 

A clutch of two or three eggs Is most 
common. The young are covered with 
white, downy feathers and rely upon both 
parents for food; they fledge at 9 weeks. 

AUGUST 201 1 ♦ 27 

Brown pelicans are found in coastal salt 
bays and beaches and breed on coastal 

With a wingspan of approximately seven 
feet, brown pelicans can weigh from eight to 
ten pounds and reach 54 inches in length. 
There are five subspecies, the smallest of the 
world's seven pelican species. 

From 1999 through 2010, 23,760 
brown pelicans were banded in Maryland 
and the central Chesapeake Bay area. Accord- 
ing to locals on Smith Island in Maryland, 
thousands of brown pelicans have nested on 
nearby Shanks Island in Virginia during the 
past ten years. 

"The colony on Shanks is in jeopardy be- 
cause the island is shrinking due to erosion 
and sea level rise; however, the site near Quin- 
by Inlet appears stable for now and is under 
protective ownership by The Nature Conser- 
vancy," Boettcher explains. 

Brown pelicans range along the Gulf, Pa- 
cific, and Atlantic coasts, mainly fi-om Vir- 
ginia south to northern Peru, the mouth of 
the Amazon River, and parts of Trinidad and 
Tobago. After nesting, North Americm birds 
flock farther north, returning to warmer wa- 
ters for winter. 

A former example of the detrimental ef- 
fects of pollution in marine ecosystems, today 
the brown pelican symbolizes the success of 
wildlife conservation programs. ?f 

Emily M. Grey is a writer, photographer, naturalist, 
and attorney from Virginia's Eastern Shore. Her 
passions are nature, traveling, and interacting luith 
varied cultures. 



> *■.- .^i 








Outdoor Classics 

Field Guide to Urban Wildlife: Common 
Animals of Cities and Suburbs-How 
They Adapt and Thrive 

by Julie Feinstein 
Stackpole Books 
Softcover, color photographs 

Wild Guide-Bats 

by Peter Aleshire 
Stackpole Books 
Softcover, color photographs 

Last week, in an established suburban neigh- 
borhood nestled between a golf course, a 
manmade lake, and a meandering estuarine 
branch, I caught a glimpse of a red fox hurry- 
ing along nervously, undoubtedly carrying a 
captured meal to its den. Seeing this fox was a 
delightful shock, and I wondered: "Where 
did it come from, and how does it manage to 
survive alongside the manicured lawns, 
swimming pools, SUVs, and barbeque grills 
that typify our sprawling and diminishing 

We're all accustomed to breaking for jay- 
walking Canada geese; we enjoy watching 
squirrel antics; and we take pleasure in watch- 
ing the various avian visitors that frequent our 
feeders and birdbaths. But how much do we 
really know about the hidden lives of myriad 
creatures with whom we share our living 

With almost more synchronicity than I 
can normally stand, my fox sighting coincid- 
ed with the arrival of a box from Stackpole 
Books containing two rather apropos field 

guides that held answers to many of my 
questions. In Field Guide to Urban Wildlife 
we learn that for urban mammals, birds, in- 
sects, and invertebrates like earthworms and 
slugs, survival depends upon a host of adap- 
tive behaviors: opossums have a naturally oc- 
curring protein in their blood that inactivates 
the venom of poisonous snakes; rats and 
mice increase their odds by early and avid re- 
productive behaviors; Eastern cottontails 
have uniquely efficient digestive systems that 
allow them to survive on low-quality food; 
peregrine falcons have become adroit city 
dwellers; and the blue jays' hoarding strate- 
gies make them such excellent seed and nut 
dispersers that they are known as a 'keystone 
species,' vital to sustaining oak woods. The 
author has included handy info-bits such as 
how to really remove skunk odor from family 
pets — giving readers the science behind a 
simple and surprising remedy. 

This quirky and informative guide is 
unusual in that a vast amount of interesting 
and scholarly data are delivered in a genial 
and often ironic tone. The volume covers the 
behaviors of various bees, barn swallows, and 
everything in between, and the information 
is well-suited for young adult readers, though 
some of the more salacious aspects of wildlife 
reproduction may require a little . . . ahem . . . 

In Wild Guide— Bats, author Peter 
Aleshire explores the complex world of one 
of our most misunderstood mammals. 
Widely mythologized, and often unfairly vil- 
ified, the bat with its sophisticated echoloca- 
tion apparatus and complex social network is 
a crucial part of our planet's complex web of 
interdependencies. They hunt nuisance in- 
sects, reduce garden pests, pollinate plants, 
and contribute to the healthy diversity of our 
environment. Aleshire delves into the genetic 
origins of bats: how they grow their wings, 
fly, and navigate; how they employ their spe- 
cialized sensory capabilities; what they eat; 
and how they live. Fie also includes helpful 
sections covering species accounts and de- 
scriptions, as well as state-by-state species 

Mandatory Duck 
Stamps & HIP 


II hunters who plan to hunt doves, 
: waterfowl, rails, woodcock, snipe, 
coots, gallinules, or moorhens in Virginia 
must be registered with the Virginia Har- 
vest Information Program (HiP). HIP is 
required each year and a new registra- 
tion number is needed for the 
2011-2012 hunting season. To obtain a 
new HIP number, register online at 
ww-w.VAHlP.cojii or call 1-888-788-9772. 
In addition, to hunt waterfowl in 
Virginia hunters must obtain a Federal 
Duck Stamp and the Virginia Migratory 
Waterfowl Conservation Stamp. The an- 
nual Migratory Waterfowl Conservation 
Stamp can be purchased for $10.00 (res- 
ident or non-resident) from VDGIF li- 
cense agents or from the Depart- 
ment's website. To request collector 
stamps and prints, contact Mike Hinton 

AUGUST 2011 ♦ 29 

We are pleased to share here the 

winning essay in the VOWA 2010 

Youth Writing Competition, 

High School Division. 

My Side of the Mountain 

byToshali Randey 

I sat in the car, waiting for the ride to end. It 
was a sunny Sunday in the middle of No- 
vember, one of those unseasonably warm 
days when everyone proclaims that this win- 
ter would be a mild one. My sister sat next to 
me, napping loudly. Up in the front of the 
car, my mom gazed out the window, and my 
dad whistled under his breath as he drove. 
Wed been driving for almost two hours, and 
personally I was sort of sick of it. Where I 
come from, which is densely-populated Edi- 
son, New Jersey, you don't need to drive any- 
where for longer than five minutes. Moving 
to Virginia over the summer was a complete- 
ly unexpected twist, like someone had jiggled 
up my insides and then put them back in the 
wrong places. A large part ol me missed the 
Garden State. So far, Virginia had been rela- 
tively boring. Most of all, it didn't feel like 

As our silver Toyota ambled along the 
highway, 1 noticed a change in the scenery. 
Towering apartment buildings morphed 
into small houses painted in endearing pastel 
colors. Trademarked supermarkets turned 
into rusty grocery stores, and paved streets 
into bumpy dirt roads. 

1 rolled down my window and stuck my 
hand out the window, letting the thick swirls 
ofair wrap around it. Even though the school 
year was just getting started, this week had 
been particularly brutal; essays piled on top 
of projects and worksheets. I wanted to go 
home to Jersey where 1 knew all the kids in 
my grade and every teacher on a how-are- 
your-kids-doing basis. My preconceived no- 
tion was that living in Virginia was never 
going to match up to my days in suburban 

My sister interrupted my depressing 
train ol thought. "Ixjok! We're here! It says, 
'Shenandoah Valley: Your Wilderness 
Oasis! " 

1 rolled my eyes in response, "its a 
bunch of mountains and trees. I don't under- 
stand why everyone gets so worked up about 

it." It's not that I didn't like nature; I love bird- 
watching and gardening just as much as the 
next teenage girl. My feelings of contempt 
were probably more along the lines ol never 
having the chance to see nature up close and 

Once we got some maps from the wel- 
come center, we proceeded to drive slowly up 
Skyline Drive. The Blue Ridge Mountains 
dipped and waned around us. The Shenan- 
doah River intertwined with the mountains, 
its pale sapphire waters churning luid flowing 
in perfect harmony. Most of the trees had al- 
ready lost their leaves, leaving stick-straight, 
hollow trunks, which were beautifiilly sym- 
metrical in their own way. Bare branches pro- 
truded from their sides, holding their frail 
selves strong against the billowing breezes. 
Thin, browning leaves crunched underneath 
the car's tires. The sounds of the nearby towns 
could no longer be heard. Birds swooped in 
and landed on trees, quietly chirping in melo- 
dious tones. I w;is stunned into silence. 

As a scenic overlook appeared, we decid- 
ed to get out of the car. The wind was mostly 
warm, with a slight wintry chill in the air. 
Standing on the edge of the overlook, I could 
see the beginnings of the Shenandoah River; I 
could see small cabins in nearby woods; I 
could see to the point where the sky's milky 
horizon seemed to meet the land. The view 
was awe-inspiring, breathtaking, and 
thrilling all at the same time. I felt like I could 
fly away into the never-ending sky and glide 
past the woes and worries of the world. 

Suddenly, all at once, I remembered 
New Jersey. Crowded, cramped, and bustling 
with energy; that'd been my only idea of 
'home'. But now, as I perched on a sturdy 
rock in the middle of the mountains, I could- 
n't imagine why I'd loved such a place. I'd be 
blessed to have this valley as my home forever, 
with its soothing views and tranquil forests. I 
couldn't wait to come back when it was in ftill 
bloom or covered in snow. 

Though it's true I won't ever forget my 
childhood days in the peeling-paint public 
schools of Jersey, it's also true that on my first 
visit to Shenandoah Valley, I learned a v;du- 
able life lesson: home is anywhere your soul 
feels free. 1 may not amount to much. After 
all, I'm no expert fisher or accomplished 
hiker, but even I felt the connection with my 
side of the mountain that afternoon. And I'm 
not about to forget that feeling of belonging 


Congratulations to Kim Crockett of 
Sandston for her delightful image of a 
ruby-throated hummingbird scratch- 
ing its cheek in her grandmother's 
backyard. Kodak Z740 Easyshare 
Zoom digital camera, ISO 140, 
l/350th,f/3.5 flash fired. 

You are invited to submit one to five 
of your best photographs to "Image 
of the Month," Virginia Wildlife Mag- 
azine, P.O. Box 11104, 4010 West 
Broad Street, Richmond, VA 23230- 
1104. Send original slides, super 
high-quality prints, or high-res jpeg, 
tiff, or raw files on a disk and include 
a self-addressed, stamped envelope 
or other shipping method for return. 
Also, please include any pertinent in- 
formation regarding how and where 
you captured the image and what 
camera and settings you used, along 
with your phone number. We look for- 
ward to seeing and sharing your work 
with our readers. 



Sfnali^jOutjk ^^iy(/i^^ 


r^ ittin^her6Justabo\/etheJamee'Ri\/eronthed6clcof a little boat 
^ club, I could literally throw a rocic and hit a smallmouth bass dart- 
ing amon^ the roctcs chasing minnows. In the distance I can hear traffic, 
as cars cross the riv/er and people ^o about their business. There's a siren 
denoting something ^one bad. "But here the breeze is blowing, the air is 
surprisingly cool for the first day of August and I am alone. 

As we^et older it becomes more and more apparent that we have 
literally forgotten more of our li\/es than we remember Things that 
happened 30 years a^o, 20 years a^o, 10 years a^o, hecic even a few 
weeks a^o, are lost somewhere discarded in the bacic corner of the 
^ara^es of our minds. They are not ^one for ^ood necessarily 
Something small and seemingly insignificant can tri^^er a memory 

I have a lot offish stored in the bade corner of my garage, a lot of 
time on the water and thousands upon thousands of river miles. "Recently 
I found myself alone in a canoe on the James near Cartersville. It was a 
hot day and the fishing was less than stellar but that doesn't generally 
matter anymore. The older you get, the more you come to accept the 
^ood with the bad when it comes to the bite and just relish in the fact that 
you are out there, that you are not somewhere else doin^ something far 
less enjoyable than tossing soft plastics in hopes of fooling 
a nice bronzebacfc. 

As I drifted quietly onto a shallow, rocfcy fiat covered with bright 
^reen river ^rass I should probably t:now the name of but don't, I was 
suddenly reminded of a day my father and I spent in a canoe not far from 
here nearly 30 years a^o. As for the details of the trip and the numbers 
offish caught, I have no recollection. What I do remember is my father 
throwing a Devil's Horse over a similar rocfcy fiat, with similar ^rass, and 
the explosion of a 16-inch smallie as it erupted on the bait. The memory 
prompted a lon^ cast which was followed by a similar-sized smallmouth 
engulfing my small minnow imitation. Unfortunately he ate ri^ht as I was 

adjusting the canoe with the paddle, and by the time I set the hoolc, the 
opportunity was lost I did catch a glimpse as he slid bacf: into his lie in the 
^rass to wait for another more inviting opportunity for a meal. 

A few days later I took my family on our first river fioat together With 
my son and daughter just four and three years old, I didn't plan for much 
fishing. In fact, to my wife's utter surprise and slight disappointment I left 
the rods at home. We launched our raft in a deep pool on the 
■Rappahannocic and floated just a mile to the tate-out We stopped and 
swam a few times and searched the water beneath us for fish. A few 
decent smallmouths slid away from their mid-river lies before we reached 
them and for the most part they left too early in the low water for my 
children to get a glimpse. As we neared the talce-out I looked down- 
stream and spotted a big fish lying next to a tree at the tailout of a small 
pool. At first I thought it was surely a catfish, based on the size, but as we 
got closer 1 could seethe square tail and knew immediately this was no 
catfish. The giant smallmouth let us float right up to her before sliding lazily 
across the sandy bottom back toward the head of the pool. I pointed, and 
my son leaned over the side of the raft and spotted this beast as it slipped 
quietly back upstream. As to whether he will remember this first 
smallmouth encounter 1 can't be sure. I doubt it honestly 

I hope to log thousands of more river miles with my 
family in the years to come on the smallmouth waters of 
Virginia. And I can only hope that that my children will come 
to love these fish and the days spent chasing 1 
much as I do. Who knows, perhaps decades f 
now, one of my children will find themselves 
alone in a canoe on the James or 
some other river and be prompted to 
remember a day we spent on the water 
and the explosion of a nice smallmouth. 


"Wow! He's got State Record 
written all over him." 

I A Great Gift at $26.75 

' Call (804) 367-0486 for details 

J = 

Photo Tips 

by Lynda Richardson 

Tips for Better Fishing Pictures 

Everybody shoots the obligatory "grip 
and grin" photographs of happy fish- 
ermen holding their catch, but did you know 
that if you shoot a head and shoulders shot ol 
your angler and have them hold the fish out 
toward the camera this will make the fish ap- 
pear bigger than it actually is? We all want 
that, don't we? If you use a small aperture set- 
ting (like f/16.0), which gives you a maxi- 
mum depth-of-field, you will have both the 
fish and the angler in focus! As a safeguard for 
sharpness, you should focus on the angler's 
face and take several shots; then focus on the 
fish and take several more shots. 

"Grip and grins" are fine, but how can 
you make your images more exciting? Be cre- 
ative! Get in the water and photograph the 
angler as he releases the catch at the water's 
edge. You can do this ofi^the side of a boat as 
well. Shoot as low to the water as possible 
without getting your camera wet. Use a right 
angle finder, if your camera allows for one, to 
make these shots easier to capture. 

Eyes add great expression to a photo- 
graph. That's why I have my subjects remove 
their sunglasses. Hats can also obscure a per- 
son's face, especially if the sun is high — caus- 
ing the brim of the hat to cast a shadow across 
their eyes. Ask your subject to either remove 
or tilt their hat back so there is no shadow. 

On bright days, using a flash can help 
get rid of harsh shadows, but you will need to 
be carefiil because a flash can overexpose a 
subject. (That is, make it too bright.) I usually 
practice hefore anyone catches a fish so 1 know 
if I've got my flash adjusted properly. This is 
important because you want to release the 
fish as soon ;is possible. Most flashes today 
offer whole- and '/i-stop adjustments. On 
some cameras you can even control the pop- 
up flash. Check your camera and flash manu- 
als to see if this is possible. 

Don't forget to include the scenery! 1 like 
to have an angler positioned on the left or the 
right of the frame with a beautiful back- 
ground playing out in the rest of the shot. 
Make sure that your horizon line is always 
straight and out of the center. Using a Vi to % 

Capt. Mike Ostrander shows off a gorgeous brown trout caught on the Gunnison River in Colorado. 
Note that he is holding the fish toward the camera so that it looks bigger; the fish is against a dark 
and neutral background (Hike neutral better here); flash was used to get rid of shadows; and there 
Is great scenery behind and to the left of him. But those sunglasses just don't cut it! 

By removing the sunglasses you can see the eyes of the subject, which makes for a much better 
photograph. Look at that smile! ©Lynda Richardson 

ratio of sky to water/land or vice versa lends 
itself to a more appealing composition. (See 
Horizontal Horizons, Photo lips, January 

I hope that these tips help you capture 
better photographs of your next fishing ad- 
venture! Good Luck ajid Happy Shooting! 


n th6 \A/sit6r 

by Tom Guess 


I never knew that when I was a Boy Scout 
and signed up to take my canoeing merit 
badge at Camp Chanco near Bracey 29 years 
ago it would lead me to a lifetime of public 
safety and boating safety work. Taking that 
class sparked an interest in the water for me 
that never subsided. When 1 was in my mid- 
teens I became a lifeguard, followed by two 
years as an Emergency Medical Technician 
with a volunteer rescue squad. This no doubt 
fueled my desire to pursue a career in the U.S. 
Coast Guard which finally landed me here 
with my DGIF family. 

With all oi my experiences working acci- 
dents and tragedies, I could never firmly grasp 
how just one or two simple poor decisions 
could lead to a person being severely injured or 
losing their life. Now that I am heavily in- 
volved in boating safety, boating accidents, and 
boating education, it puzzles me even more. 

As you may have read in my column last 
month I compared decisions that mitigate 
risk to those that contribute to risk. 1 tried to 
point out how the decisions that boaters 
make either help them have a safe day on the 
water or contribute to having a dangerous day 
on the water. 

If you put some common boating sce- 
narios in the same context as driving a vehicle 
on the road, it's easy to see how glaring those 
poor decisions are and, also, how difficult it is 
to understand why people operate vessels the 
way they do on the water. Here are some 
questions to show you what I mean: 
♦ If you were driving a car, would you ever 
imagine allowing a family member or 
child to go out onto the hood or the 
trunk and hang their feet over the side 
while you motored along at 15 or 20 
miles per hour? 

♦ If you were on a motorcycle, would you 
leave your driveway at a very high rate ol 
speed, drive toward you neighbor's 
property line and, just before getting to 
the edge of their yard, jerk the handle- 
bars, cut a donut, burn down your tires, 
and then run at a high rate ol speed in 
the opposite direction? 

♦ Imagine getting in your convertible at 
10 a.m. with a couple of friends. Before 
you leave you put a cooler fiill ol beer in 
the back seat. You hand everyone a beer 
and they start drinking; then, you tear 
out of your driveway and run through 
your neighborhood yelling and holler- 
ing with your cans in the air. 

♦ Would you tie someone 30 to 50 feet be- 
hind your car on a wagon or some other 
object and pull them at a high rate of 
speed through traffic, around other ve- 
hicles, or through a narrow opening on a 
wooded lot or imder a bridge? 

OI course there are other factors at play while 
driving on land. But really, when making 
choices on the water while combining speed 
and alcoholic beverages and adding one or 
more sharp propellers to the mix, you are fac- 
ing just as much — if not more — danger if 
you don't make the right choices to keep 
everyone aboard safe. 

Until next time: Be Responsible, Be 
Safe, and Have Fun! 

Tom Guess, U.S. Coast Guard (Ret), serves as the 
state boating law administrator at the DGIF. 

The same precautions and safe driving techniques you use when driving a car should also be 
taken when operating a boat. Photo taken during the filming of a NASBLA boating accident 
reconstruction video shoot. 

AUGUST 2011 ♦ 33 



by Ken and Mario Perrotte 

Wild Turkey Enchiladas with Salsa Verde 

Hunters who simply breast out turkeys, geese, or other 
larger game birds miss out on superb opportunities 
to create exceptionally flavorful meals with the meat from a 
bird's legs and thighs. One of the easiest and tastiest dishes 
to prepare with this meat is enchiladas topped with cheese 
and a spicy, green salsa. 

Granted, a wild turkeys legs, especially from an older 
tom, can be a little tough when roasted. The answer is to 
simply slow-cook those legs and thighs in liquid until the 
meat nearly falls from the bone. 

To prepare the meat: 

2 turkey legs and thighs 

2 cups chicken stock or broth 

1 tablespoon lime juice 

1 tablespoon spicy salsa or taco sauce 

Water to cover legs 

Put all ingredients in a crock pot or stock pot with just 
enough water to cover the turkey. Cover the pot and sim- 
mer for several hours until meat is very tender. Cool and 
shred meat off the bones. Save the cooking broth. 

To prepare enchiladas: 

2 tablespoons butter 

Shredded turkey meat, prepared above (you should 

have about 3 or 4 cups) 
Vi cup cooking broth 
Vi sweet onion, diced 
1 four-ounce can chopped green chilies 
24 ounces medium green salsa (salsa verde) - divided 
1 teaspoon garlic powder 
1 teaspoon cumin 

1 Vi cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese, divided 
20 Corn tortillas 

Pre-heat the oven to 350°. In a large pan, saute onion in 2 
tablespoons butter until soft. Add the meat, broth, garlic 
power, and cumin, and mix well. Stir in the chilies and Va 
cup of green salsa. Cook until warm throughout. Mix in 
about a half cup of the cheese and remove from heat. Place 2 
to 3 tablespoons of mixture on a tortilla and roll up. Place 
seam side down in a greased bilking dish. Continue until the 
dish is full. Cover with about 1 2 ounces of the salsa. Much of 
this will be absorbed into the tortillas during baking. B;ike 
for about 20 minutes, or until the cheese is melted. Add the 
remaining salsa and cheese as a final topping as soon as the 
enchiladas are removed from the oven. Serve promptly. 


Side dishes are simple and easily made while the enchiladas 
are in the oven. Make a little s;ilad with some chopped let- 
tuce and tomato. Add dollops of sour cream with a cilantro 
garnish and homemade guacamole to round evcr)thing out. 

Making guacamole is simple. Halve a couple of ripe 
avocadoes and then scoop the fruit from the outer skin into a 
bowl. Add a splash of lime or lemon juice, a little kosher sdt, 
a heaping tablespoon of Hnely diced sweet onion, and a few 
dashes of hot sauce. Mash it all together. You can add a table- 
spoon of finely chopped tomato, as well. 

To wash it all down, it's hard to beat a premium lager or 
Mexican beer that has a wedge of lime squeezed into it. Buen 
provecho a mis amigos! 




August 12-14 


Richmond Raceway Complex 

600 E. Laburnum Avenue 

Richmond, VA 

Purchase your hunting and fishing licenses 

Pick up a free copy of the new hunting 


Subscribe to Virginia Wildlife magazine 

and our online Outdoor Report 

Purchase the 201 2 wildlife calendar 

Visit our wildlife exhibits 

And much, much morel 

For information: 

Don't miss our next special exhibit: 




OpenJune4, 2011 
to January 14, 2012 

Presented by: 


f \ 


Virginia Museum of 

21 Starling Avenue • Martinsville, VA 24112 • 276-6344141 
Visit www.vmnh.rr for more information. 



Virginia Birding and Wildlife 
Trail Guide 

Provides information on the nation's first 
statewide wildlife viewing trail all in 
one convenient book. This 400-pg. 
color publication provides information 
on over 670 sites with updated maps, 
detailed driving directions, and contact 
information for each site. 

Item tt VW-226 


Canvas Tote Bag 

This attractive bag makes a great tote 
for groceries, picnic items, or camera 
and field guides. Show your support for 
the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail 
with this reinforced cotton canvas blue 
and tan bag. Measures 14x5x1 3"and 
includes FREE SHIPPING to thank you 
for your support. 

Item n VW-135 

Birder's journal 

Price $12.95 

Become a budding naturalist by recording your bird sightings and outdoor 
observations in this handsome leather-bound journal. Includes a com- 
plete list of Virginia birds at the front; measures 1 OV4 x 7". FREE SFHIPPING 
to thank you for supporting wildlife conservation and the Virginia Birding 

Item n VW-228 

Price $22.95 

201 1 Limited Edition Virginia Wildlife 
Collector's Knife 

Our customized 201 1 Collector's Knife is a Model 1 1 9 Special Buck 
knife which features a black bear. The handle is made from diamond- 
wood with an aluminum guard and butt. Blade is 420FHC steel. 
Knives and boxes, made in USA. 

ltem#VW-411 $95.00 (plus $7.25 S&H) 

To Order visit the Department's website at: or call (804) 367-2569. 

Please allow 3 to 4 weeks for delivery. 

Magazine subscription-related calls only 1-800-710-9369 ♦ Annual subscription for just $12.95 

All other calls to (804) 367-1 000; (804) 367-1 278 HY 

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Don't get left out 

Pick one up for yourself 
and others on your holida} 
gift list. Where else can yoi 
get such a deal, at only 
$10 each? 

The 2012 calendar features 
stunning photographs and 
Information about hunting 
seasons, favorable fishing 
dates and state records, 
wildlife behavior, and more! 

Send your check payable to 
"Treasurer of Virginia" to: 
Virginia Wildlife Calendar 
P.O. Box 11 1 04 
Richmond, VA 23230-1104 

To pay by VISA or MasterCard, 
you may order online at 

on our secure site. 
Please allow 4 to 6 weeks 
for delivery.